Temporary Shelters

John 7: 1-2, 10, 25-30
Wis 2: 1a, 12-22 / Psa 34

Now the Jewish festival of Booths was near. . .
(John 7:2)

This is but a short life we live,
With shelter in a fragile shell;
But our hope leads us to believe
Celestial homes are where we’ll dwell.

After this Jesus went about in Galilee. He did not wish to go about in Judea because the Jews were looking for an opportunity to kill him. Now the Jewish festival of Booths was near. But after His brothers had gone to the festival, then He also went, not publicly, but as it were in secret.

Now some of the people of Jerusalem were saying, ‘Is not this the man whom they are trying to kill? And here he is, speaking openly, but they say nothing to him! Can it be that the authorities really know that this is the Messiah? Yet we know where this man is from; but when the Messiah comes, no one will know where he is from. Then Jesus cried out as he was teaching in the temple, ‘You know me, and you know where I am from. I have not come on my own. But the one who sent me is true, and you do not know him. I know him, because I am from him, and he sent me.’ Then they tried to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him, because his hour had not yet come. (John 7: 1-2,10, 25-30)

Reflection

The Jewish Festival of Booths, or the Feast of Tabernacles was an important part of the Jewish tradition. It commemorated the Israelite nation’s exodus from Egypt when the Chosen People lived in booths (or tabernacles) for almost forty years before they entered the Promised Land. The people of Jerusalem constructed booths for the festival not only as a reminder of the nation’s hardships in the desert, but also to provide shelter for the thousands of pilgrims that poured into Jerusalem for this celebration. It also reminded them of the time when their ancestors made a special sanctuary, or tabernacle for Yahweh God Who had decided to “dwell in their midst” (Exodus 40:34-38).

Although it was dangerous for Jesus to go to Jerusalem at that time, He knew He had to be at the festival because this was an opportunity to teach the multitude of Jews coming from all over Judea and Galilee, and to let them know that God Himself was once again dwelling in their midst.

The celebration of the Festival of Booths was for the Jews a week of sacrifice, meant to relive the hardships that their ancestors endured to gain freedom from slavery in Egypt. But God came down to live with them during those years of their tortuous journey. Both rich and poor lived simply, bearing the elements in tents, partaking of the same tasteless food, the manna that came down from heaven. During this time of Lent, as we recall the hardships that God’s Chosen People had to endure in order to be worthy of the Promised Land, let us likewise avoid all forms of worldliness and detach ourselves (if only for two weeks) from all material pursuits and pleasures, so that only God occupies the tabernacle of our hearts. Let us remember that this short life is also just a temporal journey, that we are on a pilgrimage to a place that our Lord Jesus has promised us — the Promised Land of eternity in His kingdom.

Lord God, this world offers us mere booths for our temporary dwelling; our home is where You have already provided for us in Your kingdom. Your Son, Jesus assured us, “In my Father’s house are many mansions… I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:2-3). This is our hope. Amen.

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